Jazz and Baroque music bring vivacity to Xavier

One of the things I have always admired about Xavier is how the culture of the school allows students to thrive in all aspects of their life, not only academically but also culturally and artistically. This holistic attitude is exemplified by everything from musical theatre to the international photos displayed on the second floor in Gallagher and my personal favorite: live musical performances by fellow Xavier students. I had the opportunity to attend two of these performances this week and they were nothing less than spectacular.

On Sunday, the 17-piece Xavier University Jazz Orchestra directed by Eric Lechliter played a seven-song program which included classic jazz standards ranging from Sonny Rollins’ “Tenor Madness” to “Autumn Leaves.” The performance was held at Caffe Vivace located at the corner of Kemper and McMillan Street.

The theme of the night was “Jam Session” and the performance felt loose and casual. “Today’s performance is a little bit different because the focus is on allowing the individual members to express themselves through improvised solos,” said Eric Lechliter. “There are a few new members this semester and this was their first time performing an improvised solo out in public, let alone Cincinnati’s premier jazz lounge.”

With cold snow on the outside and warm brass horns on the inside, I knew that I was in for a treat the moment the first chords bounced off the subtle orange paint and cold windows. My favorite moment from the program was during Herbie Hancock’s “Cantaloupe Island” when Trumpet player Duncan Webb ‘21 and alto saxophonist Joshua Carandang ‘19 improvised an electric call-and-response duo. It felt like the two were fighting for space, using all that they had to stand out. The trumpet went high up and the saxophone honked out low notes and it was unlike anything I have ever heard in person.

Another moment that stuck out to me was when Carandang slung his alto sax to his side, picked up a microphone and sung the first verse to Paul Barbarin’s “Bourbon St. Parade.” It seemingly came out nowhere and I was a bit shocked because I didn’t see it coming at all. His Broadway-ready voice was the perfect way to kick the song into gear and is definitely not something I am going to forget anytime soon. The next jazz orchestra performance will be held at the Greenwich on Sunday, May 5.

The next day I attended the Xavier University Chamber Orchestra’s performance titled ‘Baroque Masterpieces’. The program included music by Henry Purcell, Johann Bach, George Handel, Antonio Vivaldi and was conducted by Isaac Selya. The performance was held in Bellarmine Chapel, where the acoustics were perfect and really allowed the smooth tone of the orchestra to sing out. The classical tunes were played with a lot of technical skill and grace. Everything to the soft moments in ‘passacaglia’ and the loud finale of “Little Fugue in G-minor” was powerfully moving and executed with precision. 

The stand-out part of the performance for me was when the Magis Quintet (comprised of three violins, a viola, and a cello) performed “Summer” from Vivaldi’s “The Four Seasons.” Despite the size, the quintet’s music more than filled the room. The arrangement allowed room for each of the individual members to shine, while the sounds they made were more than the sum of their parts. The next music performance at Bellarmine Chapel will be held Wednesday, March 23 at 7:30, when Xavier’s choral department will perform “The Night Sky, Dreams, & Stars.”

I encourage all students to try to make it out to one of these events to experience the talents of the Xavier community. Get your friends together and make a day out of slowing down and taking in all the vibrant culture that our campus has to offer.

By: Joseph Cotton | Staff Writer